adjective clum·sy \ ˈkləm-zē \
|Updated on: 15 Jul 2018

Definition of clumsy

clumsier; clumsiest
1 a : lacking dexterity, nimbleness, or grace
  • clumsy fingers
b : lacking tact or subtlety
  • a clumsy joke
2 : awkward or inefficient in use or construction : unwieldy
  • a clumsy contraption
  • criticized her sentence for its clumsy construction


play \-zə-lē\ adverb


play \-zē-nəs\ noun

Examples of clumsy in a Sentence

  1. I'm sorry about spilling your wine—that was very clumsy of me.

  2. I have very clumsy hands and tend to drop things.

  3. She made a clumsy attempt at a joke.

Recent Examples of clumsy from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'clumsy.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of clumsy

probably from obsolete English clumse benumbed with cold

Synonym Discussion of clumsy

awkward, clumsy, maladroit, inept, gauche mean not marked by ease (as of performance, movement, or social conduct). awkward is widely applicable and may suggest unhandiness, inconvenience, lack of muscular control, embarrassment, or lack of tact.
    • periods of awkward silence
clumsy implies stiffness and heaviness and so may connote inflexibility, unwieldiness, or lack of ordinary skill.
    • a clumsy mechanic
maladroit suggests a tendency to create awkward situations.
    • a maladroit politician
inept often implies complete failure or inadequacy.
    • a hopelessly inept defense attorney
gauche implies the effects of shyness, inexperience, or ill breeding.
    • felt gauche and unsophisticated at formal parties

CLUMSY Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of clumsy for English Language Learners

  • : moving or doing things in a very awkward way and tending to drop or break things

  • : badly or awkwardly made or done

  • : hard to use : awkward to handle

CLUMSY Defined for Kids


adjective clum·sy \ ˈkləm-zē \

Definition of clumsy for Students

clumsier; clumsiest
1 : lacking skill or grace in movement
  • clumsy fingers
2 : awkwardly or carelessly made or done
  • a clumsy apology
  • a clumsy error
3 : awkward to handle
  • a clumsy package


\-zə-lē\ adverb


\-zē-nəs\ noun

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